Power Ranking Oklahoma's 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest
Although it’s never wise to look past an opponent, there’s no doubt that some games should be a lot easier than others.
That’s certainly the case when it comes to the Oklahoma Sooners’ 2014 schedule.
On Aug. 30, the Sooners will begin their quest for their eighth national title. Twelve opponents will try to get in the way of that run—both non-conference and Big 12 foes alike.
Join B/R as we take a closer look at each game on Oklahoma's 2014 schedule and rank them from easiest to toughest.
12. Kansas (Nov. 22)
Last Meeting: W 34-19 (2013)
The Jayhawks haven’t beaten the Sooners since 1997, and it’s almost a sure thing that the drought won’t end this season.
Kansas had just one bright spot during its 3-9 (1-8 Big 12) campaign last year—running back James Sims (230 CAR, 1,110 YDS, 7 TD). Unfortunately, Sims has graduated, along with three starting offensive lineman.
With Jake Heaps, last year’s starting quarterback, transferring to Miami, via the Associated Press (h/t ESPN), the burden under center will fall on sophomore Montell Cozart.
The fact that the game is played late in the season certainly benefits the young starters for the Jayhawks. However, it would take a downright miracle for Kansas to stomp into Norman and upset Oklahoma.
11. Louisiana Tech (Aug. 30)
Last Meeting: n/a
These two schools may have never met on the gridiron, but the two fan bases should be pretty familiar with one another. That’s because they met on the basketball court back in December, when the Bulldogs came away with a 102-98 overtime win in Norman.
With pride on the line, look for the Sooners to get a little payback for their peers on the basketball team.
Coming off a 4-8 season in 2013, Louisiana Tech will have to improve and do so quickly. Still, facing a national-title contender such as Oklahoma on the road in Week 1 would be a tall task for even the most talented of schools.
It certainly doesn’t help that the Bulldogs' already struggling passing attack loses several key players. In fact, the team loses four of its top receivers to graduation.
This one could get ugly.
10. At Tulsa (Sept. 6)
Last Meeting: W 51-20 (2013)
After what should be a cakewalk against Louisiana Tech in the season opener, things don’t get any tougher in Week 2.
That wasn’t always the case, as the Golden Hurricane recently put together three straight winning seasons from 2010-12. Unfortunately, last season halted that streak with an exclamation point—the team finished 3-9, losing five of its final six games.
Sophomore quarterback Dane Evans (43.1 CMP%, 898 YDS, 4 TD, 10 INT) won’t strike fear in the Sooners secondary, especially with two of Tulsa’s top three receiving threats gone. But the real backbreaker is the loss of dual-threat running back Trey Watts, who went for 1,329 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground while hauling in 46 passes for 395 yards and one score.
Oklahoma should have no problem extending its streak in the series to eight games.
9. At West Virginia (Sept. 20)
Last Meeting: W 16-7 (2013)
Having won just four of their last 16 Big 12 games—including victories over conference doormats Iowa State and Kansas—the Mountaineers are certainly deserving of their 4-8 mark from a year ago.
After averaging just 26.3 points per game last year, West Virginia would be lucky just to match that mark this season. Leading rusher Charles Sims (208 CAR, 1,095 YDS, 11 TD) departs and takes both offensive tackles and center Pat Eger with him.
Against a Sooners defense that returns its entire front seven, that spells disaster.
Honestly speaking, the only thing the Mountaineers have going for them is home-field advantage. Other than that, there’s nothing stopping an Oklahoma romp.
8. At Iowa State (Nov. 1)
Last Meeting: W 48-10 (2013)
Not a single player on either side was born the last time the Cyclones topped the Sooners—way back in 1990.
Sure, this game is played within the friendly confines of Jack Trice Stadium. But you’d have to go even further back for the last time Iowa State beat Oklahoma in Ames (1960).
Still, there’s quite a bit of optimism around the Hawkeye State heading into 2014.
The Cyclones return 16 starters—including 10 on offense—from a year ago. Throw in new additions such as highly touted wide receiver recruit Allen Lazard and new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, and you can see what the buzz is about.
However, only six starters return on a defense that ranked just No. 106 in total defense last season.
No matter how much potential Iowa State’s offense has, it’s highly unlikely the unit can keep up with the Sooners offense.
7. Kansas State (Oct. 18)
Last Meeting: W 41-31 (2013)
Who could forget last year’s explosive matchup between these two squads in Manhattan?
The Sooners return a majority of their playmakers from a year ago, but the Wildcats do not—Kansas State only returns 10 starters from 2013.
Among the losses on offense are leading rusher John Hubert and three starting offensive linemen, including both tackles. Defensively, losing linebacker Tre Walker and safety Ty Zimmerman could be devastating.
Still, the Wildcats should take solace in the fact that they return the quarterback-receiver combination of Jake Waters and Tyler Lockett. If you recall, Lockett burned the Oklahoma secondary for 278 yards and three touchdowns.
Even with all the losses, look for Kansas State to give the Sooners a run for their money in Norman.
6. At TCU (Oct. 4)
Last Meeting: W 20-17 (2013)
Lately, it’s bound to be a good one whenever these two teams face off.
Over the last five meetings, four have been decided by seven points or less. That includes 2013’s contest, where the Sooners were just able to escape by a meager three points.
Still, the Horned Frogs will come in with several question marks. Although the team returns 15 starters from a year ago, the team will be without starting quarterback Casey Pachall and a few other key members on offense.
But returning eight starters on a defense that ranked No. 25 in the nation last year is something to be optimistic about for TCU. Playing at home will surely help as well.
Only a week before the Texas showdown, this game could be Oklahoma’s downfall if the Sooners aren't careful.
5. Oklahoma State (Dec. 6)
Last Meeting: W 33-24 (2013)
There is a reason the annual showdown is referred to as Bedlam.
With 21 points scored in the final 1:46, last year’s showing was the epitome of what to expect when these two teams line up opposite one another. In fact, three of the last four meetings have been decided by less than 10 points.
Still, that doesn’t change the fact that the Sooners have won 10 of the last 11 games against their in-state rivals. Throw in the fact that the Cowboys only return nine starters and it becomes an even taller mountain to scale.
Even with the losses of quarterback Clint Chelf, top receiver Tracy Moore, both offensive guards and seven defensive starters, there’s no doubt this will be another meeting that comes down to the last minute.
4. At Texas Tech (Nov. 15)
Last Meeting: W 38-30 (2013)
There is something about Lubbock that just doesn’t sit right with the Sooners. Prior to 2012’s victory there, the team had lost each of its previous three meetings on Red Raider turf.
If there’s one trap game on the schedule, this very well could be it.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that Texas Tech lost five straight by an average margin of 21 points to close out the regular season. Instead, look at the team’s showing in a 37-23 victory over Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl.
Quarterback Davis Webb—who threw for 403 yards and four touchdowns in that game—should only get better in his sophomore year. He’ll have seven other returning starters on offense to help him out, including leading rusher Kenny Williams and top receiving threats Jakeem Grant and Bradley Marquez.
Prepare yourselves for a good old-fashioned shootout.
3. Tennessee (Sept. 13)
Last Meeting: W 26-24 (1968)
The Sooners can count their blessings that they will be facing the Vols both early in the season and at home.
Under Butch Jones, Tennessee has taken several strides forward. The Volunteers may have finished 5-7 last year, but they beat No. 11 South Carolina and took then-No. 6 Georgia to overtime in the span of two weeks.
And who could forget Jones’ success on the recruiting trail—the Vols ranked No. 7 in 247Sports’ football recruiting team rankings in 2014.
The loss of leading running back Rajion Neal will certainly help, but with a crop of young talented receivers ready to make a mark, Tennessee is a team Oklahoma wouldn’t be wise to look past.
2. Baylor (Nov. 8)
Last Meeting: L 41-12 (2013)
The Bears have won just two games against the Sooners in the head-to-head series between the teams.
Unfortunately for Oklahoma, both of those wins came over the last three years.
Sure, Baylor only returns nine starters and will be without key playmakers such as Lache Seastrunk. However, the team still has Bryce Petty (62.0 CMP%, 4,200 YDS, 32 TD, 3 INT) under center, and running back Shock Linwood (128 CAR, 881 YDS, 8 TD) appears to be more than capable of assuming the starting role.
Fresh off their first conference title, the Bears are proving that this isn’t your father’s Big 12.
This is easily one of the Sooners’ biggest hurdles in earning a berth into the College Football Playoff, let alone a Big 12 title.
1. Texas (Oct. 11)
Last Meeting: L 36-20 (2013)
Yes, the Longhorns are welcoming in a new head coach. Yes, the team has some major holes on both the offensive and defensive lines. And yes, David Ash is still Texas’ quarterback.
Yet we all remember what happened in Dallas last year, and that Longhorns squad was arguably worse then than they are now.
In a rivalry as heated as this one, records go out the window. These two squads are usually always evenly matched when they step onto the field.
If the Sooners want to avoid the same result as a year ago, it’ll be vital for the team to get after Ash early. After missing nearly all of 2013 due to the aftereffects of a concussion, the senior will lack the starting experience Texas would prefer.
That said, don’t expect Oklahoma to let up with revenge on its mind.
For complete coverage and everything Oklahoma football, you can reach Sebastian on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.